We decided to have a small get-together, time for Anjali's family to meet me and me them. We decided to do this the day after Diwali, not too late and not too early; and not a meal so people could mill about, allowing for more fluid conversations. The Claridges out the outskirts of Delhi, in Surajkund, was a perfect hosting spot. Staying there, we also ended up not having to travel, which was nice.
The first person to meet was Anjali's dad. Like a deer in headlights, I froze and completely forgot to respectfully reach down to touch his feet. I had read up on this, asked people at work about it, practiced it and was ready to go. Overriding my intentions, all the years of Western programming kicked in and I extended my arm for a firm handshake. I felt a bit self-conscious about it, but Anjali put me at ease, telling me that I would get another opportunity, after receiving a tikka.
Me and Anjali's dad
After a while, two chairs were placed away from the grouping of tables. Anjali and I were seated and a few people stepped over to give me a tikka. As far as I know, this a smudge of saffron placed on my forehead. At the same time, I am given a gift. Everyone was extremely generous. I think many people had a fun time with it, since it was a whole new experience for me.
Here I am going down to touch Anjali's dad's feet
Having a laugh because I don't want so many sweets
So many sweets!
Huge smiles at the end of the tikka
Monday Means More Tikka
After the tikka, it was time to eat a bite, then see people off. It was nice to talk some more with people. Conversations could be about business and working in India, like I had with Shekar, or about travel and full of laughs, like I had with JK Uncle. No one was closed up; everyone I approached was happy to chat with me, welcoming me to the family. After clearing out, a small group of us met for a drink, then it was time to get some rest. The next day was going to mean more tikkas, in different parts of Delhi.
That next morning, we headed over to Alka and Sudev's home. Anjali tried some pancakes made by Neha and then it was time for more tikkas. This time, women would give their brothers or male cousins a tikka. We visited different homes in Delhi and at each place sampled delicious food. I do not know everywhere we went, but I do remember NOIDA being one spot we drove out to.
Parakh giving Vitesh a tikka
Alka finding the largest sweet on the tray to give me
Anjali receives a gift
Avika wanted to give tikkas as well
Off to Amritsar
Toward the end of the day, it was time to catch the train to Amritsar. This would be an exciting leg of our journey for many reasons. First, we would be spending the day with Anjali's dad, a great chance for us to get to know each other a bit. Second, we would be visiting Harmandir Sahib, or the Golden Temple, which is the main gurudwara for Sikhs worldwide. At the end of the day, we would witness the flags of Pakistan and India being lowered in unison at the border. And to top it all off, we would be taking two overnight train rides. You'll have to read about these events in Meet the Family, Episode Three.